19-year-old Geneva Heyward says they've been into video games since they were three years old. Their dad used to fix computers so there was all this early exposure to technology throughout their life, but it was when they were in 10th grade that they realized designing and creating the video games they loved playing so much was possible.
"I really like thinking of something I don't know how to do and breaking it apart and then seeing it come to life," Heyward told In The Know.
Heyward's first big project was a game called Green Hero, where the main character tries to save the world and fight climate change. A large proponent of Heyward's characters and game storylines are driven by their interest in conservation and desire to see more character diversity.
Green Hero went on to win the National STEM Video Game Challenge, which only solidified Heyward's passion for video game design.
"I felt really passionate about it," Heyward said about Green Hero. "And that passion made me know that I could keep doing this, over and over."
Heyward's teacher recommended they apply to the School of Interactive Arts (SIA), a pre-college program that trains students in the art and design of game development. Heyward was accepted and fell in love with the regular challenges of the courses and watching themself make progress each week. They began designing multi-player games with more complex storylines and characters.
Confident that video game design was something they wanted to do, Heyward worked hard to get accepted into New York University to continue expanding their knowledge.
"I focus on making someone believable — characters that have full personalities and different sides to them."
Now Heyward teaches at SIA, where they first honed in on their craft. To Heyward, it makes sense to give back to the learning community that helped them grow so much before they even reached college.
"I feel like I'm here to offer as much as I can to these students," they said. "I wanted to contribute to that nice, safe feeling that I had while I was here as a student."
Watch the full episode of In The Know: Next Gen above to learn more about Geneva Heyward's innovative approach to storytelling and design in their video games.